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Click here to read archived articles by our former preacher, Jared Hagan.
Life presents us with many situations that we wish were different. Whether on a work team, in a neighborhood, at our kids’ schools, in the church that we worship with, in our families, or anywhere else that we regularly find ourselves; there are things that we wish were improved. In any situation like that which each of us faces, we must have the wisdom to assess whether the nature of that situation can’t be changed, can be changed and should be, or can be and shouldn’t be.
There’s a great deal of mental calculating that goes on when determining things like that, and we have to be deliberate with which of those outlooks we take on a given thing. Because some of the things which can be changed will require power beyond our own to affect the change, but we often interpret that as a “can’t be changed.” And so we need to have the wisdom to know the difference.
And this helps us to assess how we approach God in prayer. We wouldn’t pray for a change in our lives that goes against the will of God; that’s not exactly “things that can’t be changed,” but it’s similar in that there is no reason to ask for God to change it. And maybe there are some things that could be changed, but they shouldn’t; mercifully, God often denies those requests when we ask because he knows that we are asking for base reasons (see James 4:3).
But, when there are things in our lives which we want changed and which can be changed (even if requires power more than our own), we can, and we should, take those things to God. Sometimes, the reason that we face unfulfilled desires is as simple as what James said: “You do not have, because you do not ask.” (Js. 4:2)
Let’s be sure to use good wisdom when we approach God in prayer (cf. Eccl. 5:2), and let’s do so from a perspective of hope, trust, humility, and intentional thoughtfulness.
- Dan Lankford, minister
- thanks to Barry McCann for the inspiration for this post
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” (Mt. 7:1-2)
There are at least three types of ‘judgments’ that we make of others. The first is an objective determination that they are either in the right or the wrong, based on clear teachings of Scripture. The second is an informed determination that even if they they aren’t fully in the right or the wrong, they are being either wise or unwise based on Biblical guidance. And the third is a subjective determination that we just do or don’t like what they’re doing.
Jesus is warning his followers not to do the third one at all, and not to let the second one or the third one be treated as though they were the first one. God’s word judges people as right or wrong, but Christ said that it’s not in his followers’ nature to judge others’ behavior and words beyond that standard.
And there’s a personal reason for that: It’s good for us to refrain from judging. Would we who are living a Christian life be offended if someone arbitrarily badmouthed our family life, our spending habits, our friendships, our personality, or our dress? Then we’d better keep ourselves above doing that to them. If we slander others based on life rules that we’ve made up, we should expect them to do the same to us.
Additionally, to speak judgmentally of others behind their backs tarnishes the reputation of the speaker. If others hear me speak judgmentally of a brother or sister, they will easily know that I’m not a safe person to come to when they need to confess or confront something. Why? Because they know that, “He’s pretty judgy. I’ve heard how he talks about other people. I sure wouldn’t want him talking about me like that.”
And so, “judge not that you be not judged.” Jesus commanded that of us, and there are plenty of reasons why we would not only feel obligated to obey him, but we should want to prevent this harmful tendency from damaging our relationships.
- Dan Lankford, minister
“…make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue…” (2 Peter 1:5)
In contrast to the writings of past centuries, there is much less discussion of virtue in today’s psychology and self-help literature than there used to be. The cultivation of virtues like humility, wit, diligence, patriotism, courage, moderation, justice, and piety was a chief aim of past generations’ parents, philosophers, and schools. And so it should still be among Christians.
So if you had to boil it down, what would you say is the chief virtue that Christianity should instill in us? Among many that could be listed—purity, self-control, love, diligence, patience, kindness, humility, etc—I believe that righteous love is the greatest. Love like God’s own pure, righteous, passionate, and intense love ought to be the defining characteristic of all of our relationships. Paul told the Colossians to create habits and hearts defined by compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, peace, and thankfulness (Col. 3:12-13, 15). And then he said, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Col. 3:14)
But from the way that many Christians talk and act, one would think that the chief virtue of Christianity is caution. We can be hindered from helping the needy by “what someone might think” if they saw us associating with them. We can be hindered from offering passionate, whole-self worship to God by “what someone might think” if they saw us exhibiting more than stoic assent in a church assembly. We can be hindered from teaching the fullness of truth about God’s grace by “what someone might think” if they hear hear that message and misunderstand its true nature.
The chief virtue—love—often tends to act in ways that are more risky than they are cautious. So, are we cultivating the virtue of love above all else? When it’s wise to exhibit both love and caution, we should do that. But when one of them must serve the other, let’s give priority to the one that most deserves it.
- Dan Lankford, minister
Do you ever feel lost in life, unsure what value you have or what your purpose is? I suppose that most people go through some level of that thought process at some point. When we do, we have a tendency to think that the solution is to increase self-esteem; to look inside ourselves for ways to think more highly of ourselves.
But the solution to those crippling feelings isn’t inside of ourselves (cf. Jer. 10:23). In fact, the more we turn our thoughts inward, the more powerful those negative feelings tend to become. We need listen upward to what God has spoken about who we are and what our value is.
If you’re struggling with such thoughts, consider a few things that God says about all people:
- You are made special in the image of God (cf. Gen. 1:26, Ps. 139:13).
- Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Mt. 10:29-31) That means that God values YOU!
- Remember that God values you enough that Christ was sent to offer redemption and salvation for you.
- We are made special and called to a special purpose, and if we believe that, we’ll find ourselves living more purposeful, more assured, more giving, more satisfied, and more joyful lives.
We often think that the solution to negativity is to look deeper within and manufacture more positive feelings. But the reality is that God has already spoken life-giving truth about who we are. The question is: Do we really believe him?
- Dan Lankford, minister
In today’s daily Bible reading assignment (James 4:7 thru 5:18), James makes three encouragements from three Old Testament examples.
- As an example for us to learn endurance through persecution, he looks to the prophets who spoke the word of the Lord and didn’t change their message when they were hated for it (5:10-11). Surely he has men like Daniel, Jeremiah, and Zechariah in mind—men who were rejected, threatened, and imprisoned for the truth they preached. If they continued in doing God’s will, we must too!
- As an example of steadfastness through suffering, he thinks of Job (5:11)—the man whose intense suffering could not force him to lose his blameless faith in God. As Job endured with God in spite of all that he suffered, we must too!
- As an example for us to learn perseverance in prayer, he looks to the prophet Elijah (5:16-18). Elijah was a man of the same nature as Christians everywhere, and yet when he put his faith in God through prayer, the weather patterns of his country were affected for years at a time. As Elijah continued to pray to God in faith, we must too!
The faithfulness of God’s people throughout time ought to encourage our faithfulness today—in persecution, in suffering, and in prayer. May we have belief that is strong enough to serve him as they did, believing that God can and will continue to do great things through his faithful servants.
- Dan Lankford, minister
The check-engine light came on in my truck not long ago. And I did what I think most of us do: deliberately ignored it. When it came on, my first thought was, “Well, that could be something really simple and cheap to fix... or it could be something difficult and expensive. If it’s going to be costly, I just don’t want to know. So I’ll ignore it.”
But then I remembered one of my college buddies who once ignored that light in his car for over three years because he feared what it would cost to fix the problem. Over time, other problems developed. Eventually, when it became practically un-drivable, he took it into a repair shop. They told him that it could be fixed, but it would cost more than the worth of the car.
Do you ever find yourself doing the same thing with your spiritual life? Do you ever read something in Scripture, have a conversation, or hear a sermon that alerts you to a life problem that you should fix? When that happens, what do you do?
The conscience is like a check-engine light for the soul. When it’s trained by the word of God, it will alert us that something—perhaps an easily-fixable problem—is wrong in our lives. And when that happens, we have to decide if we will address the problem right away... or just ignore it because fixing it might come at a high personal cost. A word to the wise: life works like my buddy’s car—it will be more costly to fix the problem later. So, address spiritual issues immediately. Don’t give a spiritual problem time to grow. It will be far more costly in the long run.
“Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (Jas. 1:14-15)
- Dan Lankford, minister
In his lesson on Monday night, brother Kenny made this excellent and helpful observation: “Justification is free. Discipleship is costly.”
Justification is free. It is a gift of the grace of God. Our only responsibility is to receive it on the terms by which God gives it. But we do not, by any action, earn justification—it’s the gift of a God who is so generous that he has already paid the extremely high cost of that justification. He gave his own perfect son so that justification would be free to us. And when we put our faith in him and receive that gift on his terms, he says to us what he said to the formerly-sinful woman in the Pharisee’s house: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Lk. 7:50)
Discipleship, on the other hand, is costly. Christ had conversations on this topic all throughout his ministry which are especially emphasized in the Gospel of Luke. He reminded his followers through all time that discipleship will sometimes cost us our homes and families, our honor or prestige, our money, our health, and even our very lives. Why would anybody be willing to pay that cost? Is it to earn a place in heaven? No! It’s because we love him. And, “we love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
Justification is free. Let us take the time to be properly grateful to God for the immense gift of his love given through Christ to make us right before him. Discipleship is costly. Let us make the firm commitment in mind and heart that we will love and serve him faithfully, no matter what we have to sacrifice to do so.
- Dan Lankford, minister
In our recent series of midweek articles, we have discussed the Biblical sexual ethic, the permanence and exclusivity of marriage, and the problem with adultery. Now, it’s time to discuss one of the hardest batches of truth in this series: what the Bible says about divorce.
This is a hard batch of truth for two reasons: 1) Because the Spirit has shown us the where hard lines of right and wrong are drawn on these matters, and 2) because many of us find that these teachings are fraught; emotionally hard to hear and hard to think about for a variety of reasons.
The Bible does have enough to say about this matter for us to clearly understand that divorces have never been God’s intention for married people. When Jesus was asked whether divorce is approved by God, the conversation went like this: “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said:
‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” (Mt. 19:4-9)
His words call for little explanation or clarification. They come down to a few core points:
- Divorce is not God’s intention for married couples. It breaks a union that is put in place by God (see Gn. 2:24). The intent was always that they would be joined by God and therefore not separated by mankind.
- Divorces have happened often throughout the history of God-fearing people groups, but they are not an equally valid option in the plan that God put in place. Jesus’ perspective on the Law of Moses’ teaching about divorce was essentially: “Yes, Moses allowed you to divorce your wives under certain circumstances, but that was never what God intended for you.”
- A divorce is always a bad thing. Sometimes, it is the lesser of two (or more) evils that can present a path through a particular situation, but it’s never morally neutral or morally good. That doesn’t mean that every person who experiences a divorce is at fault for it. Nor does it mean that every divorced person has sinned by getting divorced. But it does mean that in every divorce situation, something has gone wrong. It is never a thoroughly good thing in the eyes of God.
Jesus’ teaching on the subject is a concise recapitulation of what we would learn from elsewhere in the Bible. Jesus quoted the words from Genesis and showed how they ought to be instructive to all of his followers. And Malachi said, “the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts.” (Mal. 2:16) And it’s the same in the New Testament. Admittedly, some of what the apostle Paul wrote about marriage and divorce is unclear, especially in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16. But even in that context where some things are unclear, the apostle’s underlying assumption is that married Christians will stay together (“To the married I give this charge… the wife should not separate from her husband…and the husband should not divorce his wife.” [1 Cor. 7:10-11]). The choice—and it is a choice—of whether to stick with one’s spouse or not is something about which God has spoken clearly. The command, with one exception mentioned in Scripture, is to stay with our spouses through the whole of life.
Now, there is one circumstance of which the Lord spoke in which a person may divorce their spouse righteously (the exception previously mentioned). It’s this: one who is the innocent party in a marriage that has been adulterated may righteously divorce the guilty spouse. Jesus said this in Matthew 5:31-32, Matthew 19:9, and other passages in the Gospels which repeat these same occasions (cf. Mk. 10:1-12, Lk. 16:18). And it’s important that our awareness of this righteous exception leads us to be compassionate toward our Christian brothers and sisters who have suffered a divorce resulting from a spouse’s infidelity. Theirs is a pain that should be handled with compassion and care by the church. We will address the topic of the difficulty that many of them face in overcoming a perceived stigma from their Christian family in another venue, but for this writing, let it suffice to say that those whose life pathways have led them through this door should NOT be treated as guilty, damaged, or spiritually inferior because of it. They have suffered the consequences of someone else’s sin, and they are not the guilty ones. The Lord said that their divorces are righteous ones.
Divorce is something that married Christians should not even consider as an option, except, as Jesus said, in cases of sexual immorality. Among those of us who are married, our default position should be total devotion to faithfulness in our marriages, with no consideration of a way out. Does that sound like a lot to ask of a person? Yes, it does. And we’re not the first people to think so. The apostles answered Jesus’ words in Matthew 19 by saying, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” (Mt. 19:10) Essentially, they were saying that if marriage is going to be so permanent, even in bad times, then maybe it’s better to just never enter one. While that wasn’t what the Lord was teaching, it does belie the great weight of commitment that is the warp and woof of godly marriage.
A few other things are worth a quick, passing mention:
- Divorce is a sin of which a person can repent and be forgiven (like any other sin).
- People have often said that, “Half of all marriages end in divorce,” but that isn’t true any more. In fact, it may never have been true. The method used for the initial study that revealed that truth were almost certainly mishandled, and things have actually trended in a better direction in America since that stat was first published.
- Christians should think of being committed to our marriages rather than stuck in our marriages. One can understand why the difference in verbiage would make a big difference in our daily lives.
- Homosexual “marriages” are not something that God recognizes as holy; likely he does not even recognize them as marriages. And so in the case of two people of the same sex who are ostensibly married to each other, when one or both of them come to Christ, that “marriage” would need to be ended, including a legal filing of divorce if that was what was required by the laws pertinent to them at the time. A similar rationale would apply in cases of transgender people’s relationships when they come to Christ and repent of the old ways of their former life.
- If you and your spouse find yourselves struggling to make good things happen in your marriage, and especially if you worry that your only options are either divorce or a life of marital misery, then make some time to click here and listen to this sermon for some good starting guidance toward repairing the relationship.
As God’s people, we want to protect ourselves from the evil of divorce. God’s intent was that a man and a woman become one flesh, cling to each other through all of life, and that mankind does not separate what God has joined together.
- Dan Lankford, minister
“Training had come to an end. There had been twenty-two months of it, more or less continuous. The men were as hardened physically as it was possible for human beings to be… They were disciplined, prepared to carry out orders instantly and unquestioningly.” (Stephen Ambrose, Band of Brothers, p. 60)
I know that many of my church members are accustomed to a daily workplace in which following orders is taken far more seriously (Colorado Springs has a very large contingent of military personnel), but I live and work in a world where that kind of ready obedience to orders is anything but commonplace. I regularly hear griping about laws and workplace regulations and educational requirements in conversations with my work colleagues at the restaurant where I work part-time. When I punish my sons for disobeying a parental instruction, I feel compelled to look over my shoulder in fear that a stranger will think me too harsh. And I hear news outlets glorifying rebellion against some form of authority which should rightfully be obeyed.
But then when I read my Bible, I find stories that admire the devotion of many who “followed orders” completely because they had faith in God who gave the orders. I read of people like Abraham, Gideon, Joshua, and others who simply did what they were told whether it “made sense” or not. In fact, I find it surprising to note that the Bible rarely explores the psychological processing of things like that. We tend to speculate at great length, asking, “What must he/she have thought when God asked them to do this?” But the Bible doesn’t tell us how those obedient ones wrestled with their decisions; it simply says that they did what God told them to do.
I wonder how many of us are as obedient to God as the soldiers in the quote above were to their CO’s. I wonder if we have the faith to simply read the commands of God in Scripture and obey like them: instantly and unquestioningly.
- Dan Lankford, minister
In the last two midweek articles, we started an exploration of the entire framework of Biblical teachings on marriage and sexuality. First, we talked about the Bible’s teachings on righteous sexual behavior, and then we addressed the importance of permanent and exclusive marriages. The plan is to continue to explore these topics in the next several writings, making a straightforward—and hopefully concise—case for what the Bible has to say on the following topics: adultery, lust, polygamy, divorce, and remarriage.
Adultery is what’s commonly called “cheating” on a spouse or “having an affair.” It’s when a married person has sex with anyone who is not his or her spouse. And there’s no wondering whether it’s a behavior that the Bible considers right or wrong—the Bible is clear that it’s wrong, and speaks in volumes on that subject.
The Ten Commandments forbid adultery (Ex. 20:14, Dt. 5:18). The Law of Moses exacted punishments on both adulterers and adulteresses (Lv. 20:10ff, Nm. 5:11ff). The wisdom of Solomon warned in strong terms about the damage that adultery can do to the one who commits it (Pr. 5). The prophets used the obvious wrongness of adultery as metaphor for Israel’s long-term unfaithfulness to their covenant with God and their worshiping other gods (Jr. 3:9, Ez. 16:38ff, 23:37ff, etc). And Jesus spoke clearly on the subject, noting that adultery (“sexual immorality,” Mt. 5:32) dissolves a marriage and releases the righteous spouse from it if they so choose to be released (19:9ff). He also added greater depth of heart to the Law of Moses’s command that, “You shall not commit adultery” by warning that, “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Mt. 5:28) And even though Jesus once released a woman who was caught in adultery from the hypocrisy of those who wanted to put her to death, he still admitted that she had sinned by committing adultery, saying, “Go your way and sin no more” (Jn. 8:11). And the apostles also spoke with a firm understanding that the act of adultery is sinful in the eyes of God, no matter which of God’s covenants a person may live under (Rm. 2:22, Rm. 13:9, 2 Pt. 2:14, Rv. 2:22).
So it’s clear that adultery is a sin. And that knowledge might bring about different reactions from different people, depending on what point in life we’re at.
- For a person who has committed adultery, it may seem that such a thing is too damaging and too bad to ever be forgiven. But there is forgiveness available for those who have committed adultery and then have repented and confessed that to God, just like with all other sins.
- For those who are currently married and trying to serve God, all of this reminds us of the same truth from last week’s article: That it’s crucial for married people who want to serve God faithfully to protect our marriages and to be faithful to our spouses.
Whether the world around us thinks that such a thing is right or wrong, God says that it’s wrong, and we must fight any temptation to commit adultery. Our families depend on it, society at large depends on it, and each of our souls depend on us being faithful to God by resisting the temptation to commit this sin.
- Dan Lankford, minister